International break ideal for Everton

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesEverton are eager for Darron Gibson to return to full match fitness.

Supporters can often view international breaks as a hindrance halting the flow of the season capable of disrupting the form of players at club level. On this occasion, however, international football arrives with a sense of opportune timing for Everton.

Following the flat second-half display against Manchester City, which lacked many of the expected basics, this two-week window has the ability to lift the squad. The injured will edge towards a return, while others hope for much-needed match action on international duty.

-Lukaku eager to show Mou what he's missing
-Howard wants Everton to return to their best

One of the players requiring minutes is Darron Gibson. Recently making himself available for Ireland after the departure of Giovanni Trapattoni, Gibson is in the 23-man squad for the qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Germany.

Making his first appearance of the season against Manchester City, Gibson is vital if Everton are to challenge towards the top-end of the table. Much like Gareth Barry, Gibson offers experience and leadership -- two aspects noticeable by their absence at the Etihad.

Gibson's return will generate healthy competition in central midfield, with Barry and James McCarthy impressing in his place, though Gibson arguably has the edge due to his exemplary range of passing. Everton also boast a higher win percentage with Gibson than without him.

Another key player able to benefit from this interval is Steven Pienaar, with a hamstring injury keeping the one-time South Africa captain sidelined since the 0-0 draw at Cardiff. Nevertheless, evident in the meantime are the problems arising without the midfielder -- Roberto Martinez must find a way to get the best out of Leighton Baines in his absence.

Former manager David Moyes also failed to solve the problem of matches without Pienaar. Whenever the former Ajax player is unavailable, Everton (and Baines) tend to struggle due to the alternatives falling short of his tireless defensive work, which gives Baines the licence to maraud forward, and his link-up play.

Similar to Gibson, Everton perform better with Pienaar in the team. Closing on a return, the sight of Pienaar back in a royal blue shirt for Hull's visit Oct. 19 would provide a boost to supporter and team-mates, especially Baines.

Although yet to feature, plagued by injury since his arrival, this interlude hands precious recovery time to Antolin Alcaraz. It is clear that luck has not followed the Paraguayan, who missed large chunks of last season through injury, to Merseyside.

Hamstring trouble ruled the centre back out of the U.S. tour, while surgery on a hernia problem ensured the start of the season passed him by. A further setback looks set to keep the defender out of action this month, but these two weeks are useful on the road to recovery.

Last, though just as important as the return of Gibson and Pienaar, is the chance for Kevin Mirallas to start afresh. After a low-key start to the campaign, there were signs of a return to form against West Ham, with the Belgian setting up Romelu Lukaku for the winner, but those signs quickly faded.

Hampered by an ankle injury against Newcastle, Mirallas practically disappeared in the second half and left Seamus Coleman to fend for himself on the right flank. Healing sufficiently, or so it seemed, the winger started on Saturday, which proved something of a mistake.

Off the pace throughout, Mirallas looked unfit and delivered an error-strewn display until his afternoon ended via the introduction of Gerard Deulofeu. Able to concentrate on securing a World Cup spot in upcoming qualifiers with Belgium, the change of scenery may be the kick-start that Mirallas needs as he aims to rediscover his best form.

Parallel to Mirallas in this regard is Leon Osman, another rushed back from a recent injury who gave the impression of a player short of fitness. Working in Osman’s favour, however, is the lack of international commitments. The midfield can focus solely on fitness and form at Finch Farm.

On the back of the unbeaten run ending, this dormant period could be the proverbial blessing in disguise thanks to the prospect of resuming the season boosted by a stronger squad than the one beaten at City.


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